Friday, January 9, 2009

Pink Floyd - "Arnold Layne"

Pink Floyd Arnold Layne Dutch 7-inch coverSo I'm sitting in my car listening to La Historia Jr. Friday afternoon, stuffing my face, back and forth between my bag o' pickles and my turkey sandwich and my chili powder-seasoned potato chips, while the playlist from the new autofill starts delineating itself from the top, song by song.

After my beloved mp3 machine runs through Slayer's version of "Abolish Government" and a live version of The Nice's "America", there it is, and fucking well it is, too. "Arnold Layne," Syd Barrett's perfect little mutant pop song, the Madcap's twisted and addled and beautiful ode to the underwear fetish of a transvestite, flows from iPod to adapter to car speaker to brain, and a thought hits me with the force of Kurtz' diamond bullet.

Shit, If La Historia De La Musica Rock were a house, "Arnold Layne" would be one of its building blocks. *

Translucent, distorted, see-through, baby blue, "Arnold Layne" seems nearly irreducible, like the platonic ideal of the psychedelic pop song. While you might be able to combine what incredibly enough was Pink Floyd's first single--and perhaps Barrett's greatest song--with some Texas punk rock, say, to come up with the Butthole Surfers' "Cherub," or maybe mix the thing with some goth tune to get Blur's "Death of a Party," you absolutely cannot go the other way.

Pink Floyd Works CD coverYou cannot break the song down into any underlying components. It's as if psychedelic pop--the entire fucking genre--sprung forth fully formed from Barrett's psyche like Athena birthed from the forehead of Zeus.

Looking around at, I see that someone had called the song "Beatlesque," but no, wrong. The Beatles could not have performed "Arnold Layne," they could not have written it. For one thing, Lennon and McCartney sang in an American accent, and one of "Arnold"'s most complete charms is that Barrett sings in his native British accent. And of course, whenever the Beatles wanted to get psychedelic freaky, they'd break out the cellos and the oboes and the violins. Whereas the spaciness and the creepiness, the moonshine and the washing line, to the Floyd song lies primarily with Rick Wright's Farfisa organ, not only expressed in the ascendant solo halfway through, but also in the ornate window dressing to Barrett's tense rhythm guitar it provides the rest of the way.

"Arnold Layne" was released March 11 of 1967, and by the end of January 1968, Barrett had been effectively fired from Pink Floyd. The band then underwent a long mutation, moving from the deeply influential psychedelic pop it pioneered with Barrett to long spacy jams that, though phenomenally popular with listeners worldwide, was nowhere near as influential among musicians. Although Dark Side of the Moon and The Wall made the Floyd a whole bunch more money, it was "Arnold Layne" and The Piper At The Gates of Dawn that literally invented a sound and launched 1000 inferior bands.

Pink Floyd - Arnold Layne.mp3

This file was removed February 20, 2009. If you're still way interested in coming up with a copy of this--and really can't figure out where you might get one--drop me an email and I'm sure I'll be able to figure something out for you.

File under: Psychedelic Pop

*La Casa De La Musica Rock
Click to see bigger house in new window  (back)


Kelly Wallace said...

Josh -- love the blog. May be out of your usual listening realm but . . . since The Eagles were just here in Greenville, I'm wondering if you have any thoughts on their latest release?

Kelly Wallace

Anonymous said...

Josh- once again you've nailed the Floyd experience... no way the Beatles could ever pull off the funky/ psychodelic weirdness that the Syd days of Floyd - or really even the later Waters/ Gilmore genre. I especially love the diagram of the building blocks of La Historia... Down by the River as the cornerstone...?

rastronomicals said...

Kelly -- Thanks very much for stopping by, though I have to plead ignorance on the new Eagles release.

Pretty sure I'll write a post at some point on "The Disco Strangler," though. Big favorite of mine from them.

Anonymous (and do I know you?) -- Thanks for agreeing with everything I said :-) But goddamn right, "Down by the River" as cornerstone, Mr. N. Young as chief architect . . . .